Irish MEP criticises EU over Britain’s €60bn Brexit bill

Brian Hayes says the demands for UK to pay a ‘divorce settlement’ risk destroying talks

Dublin Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes has said EU Commission demands for a €60bn  Brexit payment risked causing an ‘acrimonious and incomplete settlement’  between the UK and the EU. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Dublin Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes has said EU Commission demands for a €60bn Brexit payment risked causing an ‘acrimonious and incomplete settlement’ between the UK and the EU. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Demands for Britain to pay a so-called divorce settlement of €60 billion to the European Union are unrealistic and risk destroying Brexit negotiations at an early stage, an Irish MEP has warned.

Dublin Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said such demands by the European Commission risked causing an “acrimonious and incomplete settlement” between Britain and the EU.

Mr Hayes described this “opening gambit” by the European Commission as “totally unrealistic”.

A group of TDs and Senators was told this week by UK Conservative MP Karl McCartney that Britain would not pay the reported €60 billion for outstanding budget obligations as it leaves the EU.

Mr McCartney is a member of the UK House of Commons committee on Brexit, which was in Dublin to meet TDs, Senators and business leaders.

Sources said Mr McCartney told TDs and Senators during a discussion under Chatham House rules that the British Conservatives would not pay the bill, and said the decision to leave the EU was primarily about sovereignty.

Mr McCartney is also understood to have told TDs a payment to the EU would be politically damaging to the Tories as they enter an anticipated general election in 2020.

‘Toxic issue’

In response, Mr Hayes said the UK would have to pay a “substantial bill but there needs to be fairness”, and noted that the issue of British contributions to the EU budget had a history of being “toxic”.

“The first thing to be negotiated after article 50 is triggered is the settlement of costs for the UK leaving the EU. Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator, has said that this part of the negotiation could last until December, emphasising just how difficult this issue will be,” Mr Hayes said.

“The EU side, through Barnier, has already shot its opening gambit of a €60 billion bill which, frankly, is totally unrealistic.

“It is clear that the UK will have to pay a substantial bill but there needs to be fairness.

“The commission could be setting the stage for a very dangerous stand-off and Ireland stands to lose if the talks simply fail at the first hurdle.”